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KARLOVY VARY 2024 Proxima

Review: March to May


- Martin Pavol Repka's first feature presents a slow-cinema exploration of family dynamics after an unexpected piece of news, set against the tranquil backdrop of a Slovak village

Review: March to May
l-r: Jana Markovičová, Natália Fašánková and Damián Humaj in March to May

Slovak-born FAMU graduate Martin Pavol Repka has made his feature-length fiction debut with March to May [+see also:
interview: Martin Pavol Repka
film profile
, drawing on experiences from his own family during his youth. Set in a rustic village house in a sleepy Slovak hamlet, the film, screened in the Proxima competition at the Karlovy Vary IFF, portrays a family of five as they navigate the complexities of growing up and growing old, with the rhythms of everyday life humming steadily along. This serene cadence is abruptly disrupted by some unexpected news: Romana (Zuzana Fialová), a mother in her late forties, is pregnant. Repka delicately captures the group’s adaptation to this unanticipated change, presenting an intimate family portrait.

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Repka has explored themes of family and friendship throughout his burgeoning career. March to May extends this thematic exploration, focusing more on visual storytelling than on plot progression. The title refers to the period over which the story unfolds, mirroring the gradual awakening of nature during the spring months. This metaphor lends a poetic quality to the movie, set against the slow yet inevitable changes in the family dynamics. March to May deviates from the usual conventions of local family dramas, as Repka employs a slow-cinema approach that emphasises the minutiae of everyday life. Instead of relying on a traditional plot structure, he focuses on observational details, employing a documentary-like style free from dramatisation. The use of intimate framing and close-up shots captures the expressions of and interactions between the family members.

The story is structured around the varied reactions and adjustments of each family member to the news of the mother's pregnancy. The youngest, Eliáš (Damián Humaj), grapples with the uncertainties of adolescence, splitting his time between skateboarding and experiencing his first love. Middle child Alžbeta (Jana Markovičová) faces dilemmas about her burgeoning independence and deciding how best to manage her first earnings. Meanwhile, the eldest, Miša (Natália Fašánková), stands on the cusp of leaving the family home, torn between the safety of the familiar and the allure of the unknown. The father (Jozef Abafi) is preoccupied with preparing the children for a new sibling, while the religious mother quietly accepts the situation. Through these individual stories, Repka captures a portrait of a family in transition.

This debut film deviates from the local tradition of social-realist dramas in both form and style. The family, residing in a rustic village house and living modestly, is not overly concerned with existential precarity. The unexpected pregnancy, which serves as a subtle narrative thread, does not incite confrontations, dilemmas or melodrama among the family members. Instead, Repka maintains an anticlimactic approach, focusing on the domestic nuances. This near-idyllic family story avoids pathos or any other expressiveness that could shift the film's direction. March to May is thus a tender and contemplative observation of familial interconnectedness, depicting the subtle dynamics and quiet resilience of the family unit.

March to May was produced by Perfilm (Czech Republic), and was co-produced by fellow Czech outfits Studio BEEP and PFX.

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